Md Nazrul: Israeli Jury chief surprised audiences during his speech at a government-organised film festival in India by criticising the organisers for including a low-budget propaganda film focusing on the exodus of thousands of Hindus from the occupied Kashmir region in competition.
The Kashmir Files, a 170-minute Hindi-language movie released in March, tells the fictional story of a student who discovers his Kashmiri Hindu parents were killed by freedom fighters and not in an accident as his grandfather told him.
The film stirred up anti-Muslim sentiments, with Hindu audiences erupting in hate speeches and calling for the slaughter of Muslims and a boycott of their businesses after seeing the film.
While praising the quality of most of the 15 films in the International Film Festival India (IFFI), Nadav Lapid, an ace filmmaker himself, said on behalf of the jury: “We were all of us disturbed and shocked by the 15th film, The Kashmir Files, that felt to us like a propaganda, vulgar movie inappropriate for an artistic competitive section of such a prestigious film festival.”
He continued: “I feel totally comfortable to share openly these feelings here with you on stage since the spirit of the festival can truly accept also a critical discussion, which is essential for art and for life.”
Lapid’s speech was made in front of several government ministers, as the festival is a government-funded event. India’s ruling far-right Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) party is understood to have supported the film.
After Lapid’s comments generated a huge backlash on social media, the jury board said his comments were “completely his personal opinion”.
Lapid’s fellow jurors at the festival include US producer Jinko Gotoh, French editor Pascale Chavance, Spanish filmmaker and critic Javier Angulo and Indian filmmaker Sudipto Sen.
As many as six countries Singapore, the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain and Oman banned the film due to its “potential to cause enmity between different communities”.